April 20, 2024

Lukmaan IAS

A Blog for IAS Examination




THE CONTEXT: West Bengal is experiencing a significant transformation in its agricultural landscape, with farmers increasingly shifting away from wheat cultivation towards more profitable alternatives such as banana, lentils, and maize.


  • This shift is driven by various factors, including economic considerations, environmental challenges, and government policies.

Reasons for the Shift

  • Wheat Blast Disease:
    • The outbreak of wheat blast disease in 2016, detected in Bangladesh, led to a ban on wheat cultivation in border areas and districts like Murshidabad and Nadia in West Bengal.
    • This compelled farmers to seek alternative crops due to the risks associated with wheat cultivation.
  • Economic Viability:
    • Wheat cultivation is becoming less economically feasible for farmers, with stagnant market prices and vulnerability to extreme weather events like hailstorms and unseasonal rains.
    • In contrast, crops like banana, lentils, and maize offer higher profitability, particularly during festive seasons.
  • Environmental Considerations:
    • The decline in water tables and concerns about environmental degradation associated with wheat farming have prompted farmers to explore more sustainable and resilient crop options.

Adoption of Alternative Crops

  • Banana Cultivation:
    • Farmers have shifted a significant portion of their land from wheat to banana cultivation due to its profitability and market demand.
  • Maize Production:
    • Maize has emerged as a popular alternative to wheat, with its cultivation area and production witnessing a substantial increase over the past decade.
    • Its profitability, coupled with demand from poultry and food processing industries, makes it an attractive cash crop for farmers.

Government Policies and Support

  • The state government’s ban on wheat cultivation and promotion of alternative crops has encouraged farmers to experiment with new varieties of maize and pulses.
  • While the shift in cropping patterns may not significantly impact national wheat security, it is expected to benefit farmers in West Bengal by diversifying their income sources and improving returns from alternative crops.


  • Maize is one of the most versatile emerging crops shaving wider adaptability under varied agro-climatic conditions.
  • Globally, maize is known as the queen of cereals because it has the highest genetic yield potential among the cereals.
  • It is cultivated on nearly 190 m ha in about 165 countries having wider diversity of soil, climate, biodiversity and management practices that contributes to 39 % of the global grain production.
  • The United States of America (USA) is the largest producer of maize contributes nearly 30.99% of the total production in the world in 2020 and maize is the driver of the US economy.
  • In India, Maize is grown throughout the year. It is predominantly a Kharif crop with 85 percent of the area under cultivation during the season.
  • Maize is the third most important cereal crop in India after rice and wheat.


  • Banana, basically a tropical crop, grows well in a temperature range of 15ºC – 35ºC with relative humidity of 75-85%.
  • Deep, rich loamy soil with pH between 6.5 – 7.5 is most preferred for banana cultivation.
  • Saline solid, calcareous soils are not suitable for banana cultivation.
  • There are some 12-15 varieties of bananas in India.
  • Largely in the peninsular southern coastal region, namely in parts of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, and Bengal, and in the Northeastern areas of the country such as Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
  • The central and northern regions – Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, and Punjab also grow the plant but neither in such variety nor in numbers.
  • India produces about 29 million tonne of banana every year, and next is China with 11 million.

Wheat :

  • Wheat is a Rabi Crop grown between September and December and harvested between February and May.
  • The total area under the crop is about 29.8 million hectares in the country.
  • In 2020, wheat production for India was 107,860 thousand tonnes. Wheat production of India increased from 23,832 thousand tonnes in 1971 to 107,860 thousand tonnes in 2020 growing at an average annual rate of 3.42%.
  • Indian wheat is largely a soft/medium-hard, medium protein, white bread wheat, somewhat similar to U.S. hard white wheat.
  • Durum wheat, often known as pasta wheat or macaroni wheat is also one of the best quality wheat variety in India.
  • The wheat crop has wide adaptability. It can be grown not only in the tropical and sub-tropical zones but also in the temperate zone and the cold tracts of the far north, beyond even the 60 degrees north latitude.
  • Wheat can tolerate severe cold and snow and resume growth with the setting in of warm weather in spring.

Measures to Promote Crop Diversification:

  • The Department of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare (DA&FW) has implemented the Crop Diversification Programme (CDP), a sub-scheme of Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY).
    • It was implemented in the Original Green Revolution States viz; Haryana, Punjab & Western Uttar Pradesh since 2013-14 to divert the area of water intensive paddy crop to alternative crops like pulses, oilseeds, coarse cereals, nutri cereals, cotton etc.
  • In addition, Government of India has also supplemented the efforts of state governments to encourage diversified production of crops such as pulses, coarse cereals, nutri cereals, cotton & oilseeds under National Food Security Mission (NFSM) and horticultural crops under Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH).
  • The Government has implemented a Scheme on ‘Promotion of Agricultural Mechanization for In-Situ Management of Crop Residue in the States of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi’during 2021-22.
  • Financial assistance has also been provided to the State Governments, Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs), Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) Institutions, Central Government Institutions, Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) etc. for Information, Education and Communication (IEC) activities for creating awareness on crop residue management.
  • The ICAR has developed PusaDecomposer, a microbial consortium of fungalspecies (both in liquid and capsule forms)for rapid decomposition of paddy straw. Use of this consortium accelerates processofpaddy straw decomposition in the field itself.

SOURCE: https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/agriculture/west-bengal-farmers-shift-from-wheat-to-lucrative-banana-lentils-and-maize-cultivation-95302

Spread the Word